19 Jan 2013 08:55:20

Fiona Bruce MP highlights new evidence that girls are more likely to be aborted than boys

By Tim Montgomerie
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Screen Shot 2013-01-19 at 08.45.24The Tory MP for Congleton, Fiona Bruce, has put down an Early Day Motion in response to news that parents from certain overseas countries - including India and China - are more likely to abort their unborn babies if those babies are girls than boys. Mrs Bruce wants the Department of Health to accurately monitor trends in abortion to establish whether such pre-birth discrimination is occuring:

"That this House, in acknowledging that there is a wide range of different but sincerely held views on the issue of abortion law, nevertheless unites in registering its profound shock at recent confirmation by the Department of Health that there are discrepancies in the balance between the number of boys and girls born to groups of women from some overseas countries to an extent that `falls outside the range considered possible without intervention'; is appalled that there now appears to be evidence of significant numbers of baby girls being aborted illegally in the UK simply because of their gender; reminds the police and Crown Prosecution Service that abortion on the grounds of gender is illegal; and, in demanding immediate and effective enforcement of the law in this area, calls on the Department of Health to put in place procedures to record in future the gender of babies aborted under the provisions of the Abortion Act 1967 so that statistical evidence of crime cannot be hidden."

Mrs Bruce is a pro-life Tory MP and her concerns about this anti-girl prejudice are therefore understandable. Less easy to understand are objections from pro-abortion campaigners. Anne Scanlan from the LIFE charity recently told LifeNews:

"Cases of sex-selective abortion, and the public uneasiness about the practice, highlight a huge tension in the “pro-choice” position. Pro-choicers who claim to be concerned about this issue have to explain why. The core of the pro-choice argument is that all women have the right to end a pregnancy for whatever reason at any point. On what grounds, then, does someone who describes themself as pro-choice criticise abortion on grounds of the baby’s sex? Similarly, pro-choicers who have no objection to sex-selective abortion are sanctioning and endorsing a deeply discriminatory and intolerant practice.”

28 Nov 2011 14:29:01

Registration for hairdressers would be compulsory, under a law introduced by David Morris MP

By Joseph Willits 
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MorrisDavid Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, is set to call for a change in the law on Wednesday, making it compulsory for all hairdressers to be state registered. A Bill under the Ten Minute Rule to amend the Hairdressers (Registration) Act 1964, will be introduced. 

Morris, who has 28 years of hairdressing experience in Wigan and Bolton, before becoming an MP, has previously warned of the "wrong" and "dangerous" implications of unlicensed hairdressers:

"At present anybody can just open a hairdresser's shop and go about cutting and dying people's hair using corrosive chemicals without any training or licensing."

Drawing from his own experiences as a hairdresser, Morris said:

"When I ran salons I had people coming into me with pink and blue hair and scalp burns and hair snapping off at the root, and we'd have to sort them out because they'd had their hair and skin damaged by cowboys who don't know what they're doing".

Continue reading "Registration for hairdressers would be compulsory, under a law introduced by David Morris MP" »

23 Nov 2011 17:29:53

The Government is "committed to continuing" free milk for under-5s, says Anne Milton

By Joseph Willits 
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Anne_miltonIn what has been a rather sensitive issue for the past 40 years, many will be relieved to hear the words "commitment" and "continuing", in response to a question about free milk for under 5-s. Health Minister Anne Milton reassured other MPs, responding to a question from Labour MP Nic Dakin, about the value of "free nursery milk in preparing young people for a good future and well-being in life".

The Mail on Sunday, used the headline: 'David Cameron the milk snatcher': Government plan to slash school milk budget', which quickly prompted comment from Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, with a reference to Thatcher:

"The Tories have form on this, from 'Thatcher the Milk Snatcher' to the botched attempt to make it an early victim of the spending cuts."

Sources close to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley offered a "cast iron guarantee" that free milk would stay, but a Department of Health spokesperson also said: 

"We are looking at how the free nursery milk scheme can deliver better value for money, because we are very concerned about the escalating costs. One thing is clear, though, the scheme will continue and every child will receive free nursery milk."

Continue reading "The Government is "committed to continuing" free milk for under-5s, says Anne Milton" »

23 Aug 2011 11:47:48

E-petition launched to review the smoking ban - and the 10 most popular e-petitions so far

By Matthew Barrett
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A new e-petition has been launched today by chef and broadcaster Anthony Worrall Thompson, calling on the government to review the smoking ban - a policy generally unpopular with ConHome readers. The text of the petition is:

"We petition the Government to review the impact of the smoking ban on pubs and clubs and consider an amendment that would give licensees the option of separate well-ventilated smoking rooms."

This is also an opportune moment to take a look at the top ten most popular e-petitions so far. They are listed below, with the figure on the right denoting the number of signatures collected:

  1. Convicted London rioters should loose all benefits - 217,921
  2. Full disclosure of all government documents relating to 1989 Hillsborough disaster - 109,482
  4. Make financial education a compulsory part of the school curriculum - 40,069
  5. Petition to retain the ban on Capital Punishment - 24,822
  6. Keep Formula 1 Free To Air in the UK - 21,301
  7. Britain wants referendum to leave EU - 21,252
  8. Restore Capital Punishment - 16,996
  9. Public & Private Pension Increases - change from RPI to CPI - 16,756 
  10. Increase policing DONT CUT IT - 9,366

> Robert Halfon MP - whose e-petition is the third most popular - wrote about his e-petition for us on Sunday

30 Nov 2010 16:50:52

Andrew Lansley sets out strategy to improve public health and reduce health inequalities

Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2010-11-30 at 15.40.02Highlights of Mr Lansley's statement are pasted below:

Labour's legacy: "Britain currently has amongst the highest rates of obesity and sexually transmitted infections in Europe. Smoking still claims 80,000 lives a year. Alcohol related admission to hospital are unacceptably high. And in recent years, inequalities in health have widened, rather than narrowed."

Healthier living isn't largely about healthcare... "About a third of all cases of circulatory disease, half of all cases of vascular dementia and many cancers could be avoided by reducing smoking, improving diet and increasing physical activity. We need to do better, and we won’t make progress if public health continues to be seen just in terms of NHS provision and of state interventions. Two-thirds of our potential impact on life expectancy depends on issues outside health care."'s about family, welfare and transport: "For instance, because we know a mother’s health is key to a child’s health and development, we are investing in Sure Start Children’s Centres and 4,200 more health visitors to give families the support they need. Because we know those who are unemployed for long periods are more likely to be admitted to hospital and more likely to die prematurely, we’re transforming the welfare system, ending the benefits trap, and making sure that work always pays through a single Universal credit. And because we know more people would cycle to work or school more often if there were safer routes for them to use, The Government are investing £560 million in sustainable transport."

Unhealthy lifestyles are costly to the taxpayer: "Alcohol abuse costs us an estimated £2.7 billion and obesity costs an extra £4.2 billion each year to the NHS alone."

Government should help people to healthier lifestyles, not order them to adopt them: "It’s time for politicians to stop telling people to make healthy choices, and time to start actually helping them to do it. Rather than nannying people, we will nudge them by working with industry to make healthy lifestyles easier. Rather than lecturing people about their habits, we will give them the support they need to make their own choices."

Local councils will take the lead on public health: "Under this White Paper, the lead responsibility for improving health will pass to local government for the first time in 40 years. We intend to give local authorities new powers to plan, co-ordinate and deliver local strategies with the NHS and other partners and to embed the foundations of good health in ways that fit local circumstances."

Public health budgets will now be protected: "Public health budgets were constantly raided by other parts of the NHS, we will prioritise public health spending through a new ring-fenced budget."

6 Jul 2010 14:20:35

Brian Binley MP wants review of smoking ban

Binley-Brian-2 Conservative MP Brian Binley has initiated an Early Day Motion calling for an inquiry into the effectiveness of the last government's smoking ban. The EDM "calls upon the Government to conduct a thorough review, supported by consultation with all parties and affected business sectors on the impact the smoking ban has had on public houses and private members clubs". It continues:

"Any review should consider a balanced and proportionate amendment to the legislation, which allows for segregated smoking rooms or areas within pubs, bars and clubs provided that effective smoke extraction systems of an authorised standard are installed, enabling smokers to be accommodated in comfort indoors without impacting on non smokers and staff whilst reducing intrusive noise to many who live close to such establishments, thus helping to safeguard the future of many in the licensed trade. And that any changes to the smoking ban legislation thereafter should be made on the basis of evidence, fairness, proportionality recognising the importance of such institutions to the nation’s social life and community wellbeing."

Mr Binley says that Labour ministers promised to review the ban three years after it came into force on 1st July 2007. That review does not appear to be forthcoming despite the fact that 2,000 pubs and clubs closed last year - in part, it is alleged, because of the smoking ban.

Mr Binley commented:

“Many pubs and clubs are finding it difficult dealing with the economic situation; the smoking ban has further impacted on many businesses and the trade is really struggling. I want to consider a balanced and proportionate amendment to the legislation, which allows for segregated smoking rooms or areas within pubs, bars and clubs provided that effective smoke extraction systems of an authorised standard are installed.”

Tim Montgomerie

> Related link: Why you should support the campaign to amend the smoking ban by Shane Frith

9 Jun 2010 07:54:50

Nadine Dorries: Why I want to chair the Health Select Committee

DORRIES ON QT Nadine Dorries MP makes her case for today's elections.

I have never held any front bench ambition. I know that there are people in my own party who regard me as a bit of a rebel, I like to think that I am independent, which is an essential quality in a Select Committee Chairman.

With ten years of nursing experience within the NHS, a former director of BUPA and a natural leaning to towards all health related issues, I feel I can bring a prior knowledge, passion and understanding to the Chair.

As a single mother of three daughters and someone who in recent years has taken full responsibility for two terminally ill elderly relatives, I also bring practical first hand experience of what it is like to be on the receiving end, both as a patient and a carer.

The nature and remit of Select Committees is about to change for the better and never before was there a time when that change could be put to such good use.The structure of the new Committees will provide us with an opportunity to embrace democracy in a way which in the past has become damaged and eroded. In the past, the gift of a select Committee Chair was in the hands of the whips. Today a Chairman is selected via votes taken by all MPs from across the house. This makes the Committee much more powerful than it ever was before, resembling the American model of Select Committee.

No longer will Chairman have to behave in a covert partisan manner, often choosing to investigate a populist subject which will fill a few columns of newsprint and not rock the Government boat. Committees will now have the power to fully probe and investigate. All members of the committee will genuinely be able to leave party politics at the Committee room door.

If I am voted to Chair the Health Select Committee I will guarantee that the Committee  will work truly and wholly on behalf of the people. That we challenge thoroughly, deeply and analytically every major health policy decision brought forward by the coalition government.

The next few years are going to bring budget cuts. David Cameron promised real term spending increases for health. I intend to help him stick to that promise whilst providing value for money reform and substantially increasing levels of patient care.

Under my Chairmanship the new Health Select Committee will need to take a departmental, rather than a subject view. It will be required to analyse budgets as well as research and in these years of cuts, adopt a role of scrutiny. PCTs will be called to explain how they intend to implement a management budget cut in absolute detail without affecting in any way levels of patient care.

And that’s where I see the focus of the Health Select Committee remit over the next five years. Looking over the shoulder of the Department of Health every step of the way. Calling witness after witness to explain their reasoning and motivation and being the strongest loudest voice for the patient who too often is caught between a rock and party politics.

21 Jul 2009 08:30:43

Andrew Lansley criticises Labour for conflicting advice on swine flu and the delayed launch of national pandemic flu line

Andrew Lansley, Shadow Secretary of State for Health: "Over the weekend, conflicting advice was issued to expectant mothers. Consistent and accurate advice is paramount in a situation in which we are trying to maintain public confidence, so can the Secretary of State tell the House what steps he is taking to ensure that the chief medical officer liaises with the royal colleges and other associations to achieve consistency and clarity of advice to the public?

An interim solution for the national pandemic flu line is to be put in place. We know that the Treasury delayed until December signing the contract for a full solution with BT. Even so, this March, the Secretary of State’s Department said that it could be available by April or May. It should, according to the plan, have been activated in mid-June, when the pandemic alert was declared, but it was not. To that extent, it is a month late. It is clear that much of the confusion that we have seen in that month could have been avoided if the Government had delivered the pandemic flu line on time. BT says that it did all that was asked of it. Who and what caused the delay?

...We know that the UK has the smallest number of critical care beds in relation to population of any major health system. May I ask the Secretary of State again what criteria he thinks should be applied to the cancellation of elective operations, and what plans the Government have to train additional NHS staff in the use of non-invasive ventilatory support?"

Andy Burnham MP, Health Secretary: "The hon. Gentleman asked me about the advice for pregnant mothers, which he said was confusing. Let me say again that our advice has not changed. I cannot make that clear enough. The front page of a newspaper stated that one voluntary body had said that people should not plan for a pregnancy—should postpone pregnancy, in effect—and there was a response to that from the Royal College of General Practitioners. I would be grateful if he would listen to this point: comment has been made on the advice prepared a long time ago for H5N1, bird flu, which, as I think he knows, would have been a more serious virus. It is important that care is taken to ensure that the statements that are made relate to the current advice. As I say, that advice has not changed.

The Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have played a superb role over the past few weeks, and I am sure that they will continue to do so. Both organisations have given clear advice today and in the past week, and of course we will continue to liaise with them to ensure that they can continue to play that role.

The hon. Gentleman said that the national pandemic flu service was “a month late”, and asked who had caused the delays. This brings us to the heart of some of the information that the Liberal Democrats were putting out this weekend. I am afraid that they were trying to score a political point when none was justified. As I have explained, when I came into the Department, the clear advice to me was that it would be justified to stand up a new national network—with all the resource, energy and time that that would take—when we had simultaneous outbreaks in many parts of the country and there was not only pressure in two or three places but more sustained pressure across the country.

I want to refer the hon. Gentleman back to the numbers that I quoted in my statement. I will read them to him again, because they illuminate this point. I said: “On 8 July, just six primary care trusts reported exceptional levels of flu-like illness.” One week later, that figure had increased to 110. On that day, 15 July, I took the decision—which was endorsed by Cobra—to activate the national pandemic flu service. We could have done it earlier, had the circumstances justified that. I have been clear since I came into the Department that the service could have been activated, should that have proved necessary. The change in the facts on the ground last week justified the activation of the service, and I do not believe that it is right to build a story about long delays and infighting. That has not been the case, and the decision was not technology-driven; it was driven by pressure on the ground."

Source: Hansard.

11 May 2009 11:32:31

How many people have had compulsory electro-convulsive therapy?

Anne Milton I've developed an interest in the Government's inability to get its hands on health data. Guildford MP and Shadow Health Minister Anne Milton has uncovered another case with a written question:

To ask the Secretary of State for Health on how many occasions electro-convulsive therapy was administered to a mental health patient (a) in total and (b) as part of compulsory treatment in each of the last five years. [271724]

Phil Hope: The data requested on occasions when electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) has been administered to a mental health patient in total are in the following table.

Total and average number of procedures for electro convulsive treatment per patient where the relevant operative procedure code (OPCS-4 code= A83) recorded in either main or in any of the secondary operative procedure fields 2003-04 to 2007-08, England

Total Procedures Patient count Average procedures per patient





















Hospital Episode Statistics; Outpatients, The NHS Information Centre for health and social care

We do not have the data requested about ECT and compulsory treatment. However, patients who are detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 cannot generally be given ECT without their consent, unless it is authorised by a Second Opinion Appointed Doctor (SOAD). The following table shows the number of second opinion requests in England and Wales for ECT received in each calendar year followed by the percentage of those requests that resulted in the Second Opinion Appointed Doctor issuing a statutory certificate authorising ECT.

We do not know how many of these allocations were acted on.

2004 2005 2006 2007 2008

Number of requests for ECT second opinions






Percentage of requests where SOAD certified treatment






The Care Quality Commission

So the Government doesn't know how many people are being electrocuted against their will. Outrageous.

Tom Greeves

5 May 2009 17:41:35

Rob Wilson on another glaring omission in national health statistics

Rob Wilson MP Reading East MP Rob Wilson secured a Westminster Hall debate for today, on the subject of Fibromyalgia. North Thanet MP Roger Gale was in the chair.

Highlights from Mr Wilson's speech follow. It is clear that this is another area where the data that ministers gather is inadequate - a theme I wrote about recently.

"I should take this opportunity to give a brief introduction to fibromyalgia, as there is little knowledge of the condition. Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition of widespread pain and profound fatigue. Its name is made up of “fibro” for fibrous tissues such as tendons and ligaments, “my” indicating muscles and “algia” meaning pain. A patient can experience widespread muscular pain, stiffness, constant fatigue and non-refreshing sleep. The pain tends to be felt as an aching or burning, and is often described as being felt from head to toe. It can change location and can be worse at some times than others. Because it can come and go, sufferers can feel suddenly drained of energy, as if someone has just pulled the plug on them.


Fibromyalgia has been shown to have more impact on patients’ lives than many other forms of widespread pain and chronic illness. I believe that the sheer scale of the illness and the suffering that results from it mean that it is high time fibromyalgia was taken seriously as an issue.


Many people do not know that fibromyalgia is a very common illness. It is in fact as common as rheumatoid arthritis and can be even more painful. It is a condition with no age limits. It affects mainly women, from children to the elderly, and the mean age is 49. A staggering 2.7 million people in the UK suffer from the illness. People with mild to moderate cases of fibromyalgia are usually able to live a normal life, given the appropriate treatment. However, if the symptoms are severe, they may not be able to hold down a paying job or enjoy much of a social life.


Even those GPs who know about the condition—and there are too few of those—who are looking for specialist help within the NHS cannot always refer patients directly to consultants with an interest in and knowledge of fibromyalgia. One of the immediate actions that the Minister could take today is to rectify the situation. Those clinics could be added to the choose and book system, and the NHS could build and provide an extensive list of accepted specialist NHS services around the country.


I also know that the Minister’s heart is in the right place, and that she is anxious for the NHS to help. However, recent parliamentary questions from hon. Members throughout the House have had a less than encouraging response. In June 2008, the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) asked what plans the Department of Health had to improve treatment for people with fibromyalgia. The answer came:

“There are no specific plans to improve the treatment for those living with fibromyalgia.”—[Official Report, 30 June 2008; Vol. 478, c. 655W.]

Another hon. Member asked how people were diagnosed in his constituency, the region and nationwide since 1997. The answer was:

“Information on the number of people diagnosed with fibromyalgia is not collected.”—[Official Report, 21 November 2007; Vol. 467, c. 998W.]

Continue reading "Rob Wilson on another glaring omission in national health statistics" »

30 Apr 2009 10:29:52

The Government doesn't know about several national health trends

Anne Milton There have been a couple of troubling written answers from Health ministers recently.

Shadow Health Minister Anne Milton asked about the availability of cognitive behavioural therapy, a crucial element in treating mental ill health:

"To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many people received cognitive behavioural therapy in each of the last five years. [271737]

Phil Hope: This information is not held centrally."

Labour MP Ashok Kumar wanted to know about nursing levels:

"To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average ratio of nurses to patients was at each hospital in (a) England, (b) the North East and (c) the Tees Valley in each of the last 10 years. [271347]

Ann Keen: This information is not collected centrally."

I am staggered that the Government doesn't know these figures. And they are just two recent examples - I will be on the lookout for more.

How can ministers consider national health trends if they don't have the raw material to hand?

Tom Greeves

25 Mar 2009 11:17:54

Andrew Lansley says Government should have intervened over Stafford Hospital

Andrew Lansley MP Health questions were put in the House of Commons yesterday.

The situation at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which has been slammed by the Healthcare Commission for "appalling" emergency care at Stafford Hospital, stood out. Between 2005 and 2008 about 400 more people died there than would ordinarily have been expected.

Stone MP Bill Cash expressed his profound concern:

"Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): Will the Secretary of State take account of the fact that I am repeating my call for an inquiry into this whole matter under the Inquiries Act 2005? Will he also make it clear that all those in that trust who are culpable, as set out in the Healthcare Commission report—that includes other senior management besides the chairman and the chief executive at the time—must be removed and not merely suspended on full pay?

Alan Johnson: As I just said, the investigation will involve everyone who has any position of authority within that trust—the whole board and all the executive directors. It will be a proper investigation and it will be fair, and the action taken will result from that inquiry, not from any knee-jerk reaction by me or anyone else."

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley (above right) went on the same topic:

"On 15 October 2007, after the terrible events at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, the Secretary of State said that

    “we should be spotting these issues much earlier and getting rid of incompetent chief executives or chairpersons who, fortunately, are in the minority, rather than waiting for a report such as this, by which time, frankly, most of the damage has been done.”—[ Official Report, 15 October 2007; Vol. 464, c. 571.]

The Secretary of State knew about the failings at Stafford in May 2008, so why did he not intervene then and there?

Alan Johnson: I ask the hon. Gentleman to look at the Healthcare Commission’s report carefully. The difference between what happened in Stafford and in Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells, and the fact that the Healthcare Commission took into account those words and what others said at the time, is that as soon as commission staff went into Stafford and saw the problems—in May 2008—they immediately called the chief executive to a meeting, put their concerns to him, and started to see the process of improvement. That is the job of the Healthcare Commission while it carries out its inquiry. The staff cannot say at that stage that they have come to any conclusions, and it would be unfair, one day into an inquiry, to reach conclusions and say that heads must roll and recommendations must be made. We made that specific point to the Healthcare Commission at the time of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells, so in Stafford staff immediately introduced measures to put things right, rather than wait for the end of the process and the report to be published—as I said they should do in that quote.

Continue reading "Andrew Lansley says Government should have intervened over Stafford Hospital" »

16 Mar 2009 11:44:48

Stephen O'Brien opposes presumed consent for organ donation

Stephen_obrien_mpShadow Health Minister Stephen O'Brien spoke on Friday on a Bill from Lib Dem MP Jeremy Browne to bring in presumed consent for organ donation.

(The Prime Minister once opposed presumed consent, but now supports it.)

Highlights from Mr O'Brien's speech follow:

"To discuss organ donation is literally to discuss life and death. We must recognise that, and I am sure the whole House will join me in paying tribute to all those who are donors, whether of blood, plasma or bone marrow, and all those on the organ donation register— 15.8 million people, according to NHS Blood and Transplant. I am glad to note that it was my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) who, in his first debate in the House after he was elected in 1979, sought to move forward the donor campaign. We must pay tribute not only to all those who have given up their organs in death so that others might live, but to their friends and families who, in their moment of grief, were prepared to take or support that step.

When contemplating those who have not, for whatever reason, registered for organ donation—and the hon. Member for Taunton mentioned this—I would say that it is probably not a matter of laziness, although there is certainly a lack of knowledge and education on the part of some. Often, people are worried not so much about themselves, but about the turmoil for those they leave behind, and whether it would be an extra stress for them to face the idea of their loved one’s body having an organ taken from it. When talking to those who have been through this process, we find that some families, oddly enough, found the process helpful because the fact that their loved one was useful to the future life of someone else gave them a focus. Although that would not apply to all, it is useful to bear it in mind when seeking to persuade people that they ought to consider being on the organ donation register.


As of today, 7,981 people are waiting for transplants, but only about 3,000 transplants are carried out each year. Tragically, that leads to more than 1,000 people a year dying for want of a transplant. The chief medical officer has stated that others are dying silently because doctors who know that there is no hope of their getting treatment are not putting them on transplant waiting lists. In Britain we have about 13 donors per 1 million people in our population. Spain is the best in the world in that regard, with 35 per million.

As hon. Members will know, this issue was last raised in legislative terms during the passage of the Human Tissue Act 2004, with the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) pushing for a system of presumed consent. Then, as now, the issue was one of conscience. It is therefore free vote territory for the Opposition and, I believe, for all parties. As the Conservative spokesman on health, and on this matter in particular, I emphasise that my words today do not constitute a party line. I believe that that is also true of the words of the hon. Member for Taunton, although I know that he has been able to attract the support of some of his colleagues. Hon. Members will know how they voted in 2004. For my part, I voted against introducing a system of presumed consent, as did the current Prime Minister.


We cannot escape the fact that this subject touches on people’s notions of what is appropriate in death and on the sanctity and ownership of our bodies, through either any form of living will before death or next of kin after death. The primary hurdle to overcome before legislating is the existence of evidence that any change in the law would lead to an increase in organ transplants and universal access to them across the country. There is no evidence to suggest that.


Continue reading "Stephen O'Brien opposes presumed consent for organ donation" »

11 Mar 2009 16:14:07

NHS residential accommodation for people with severe learning disabilities to be axed

A question put by Baroness Boothroyd, the former Speaker of the House of Commons, in the House of Lords yesterday, has troubled me.

"To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made towards implementing their programme to withdraw provision of NHS residential accommodation for people with severe learning disabilities by 2010.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My Lords, the Government are making good progress towards the commitment announced in Our Health, Our Care, Our Say, published in 2006, to close NHS residential accommodation—campuses—for people with learning disabilities by 2010. In August 2007, about 2,100 people lived in NHS campuses. By October 2008, the number was about 1,000. The Government’s commitment to measuring progress in the campus closure programme is part of the Valuing People Now published delivery plan.

Baroness Boothroyd: My Lords, while thanking the Minister for his reply, I must express my concern about the uncertain future of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities. Will he confirm that their dispersal from NHS campuses has no statutory authority, contrary to the impression that many NHS authorities have given? Is he aware that local authorities have no legal obligation to provide 24-hour care services and that some have abandoned plans to build special housing? Will the Government ensure that these vulnerable people are properly assessed for living in the community as the law requires and, if those obligations and the White Paper commitments are not implemented, will the Government consider postponing next year’s deadline?

Lord Darzi of Denham: My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness. Many people who are still in campuses need very high levels of support—for example, those with physical or sensory disabilities as well as their learning disabilities, or even complex behaviours that compose a challenge for services. Government policy is clear: everyone could benefit from good support to live in the community if that support is tailored to their particular requirements. I cannot stress enough what at local level that personalised care should be about. The noble Baroness also asked about the statutory powers. The White Paper does not have the effect of statute and did not create a mandatory duty to close NHS campuses. However, there has been extensive public involvement and consultation carried out nationally and in the lead-up to the White Paper."

This response from the minister is not very reassuring. The policy is not quite as reckless as it first appears to be - and indeed I am told by a press officer that the Conservatives support it. The idea is to transistion to care in the community.

My worry - which I have about many aspects of policy - is that individual councils will not pull their weight.

Tom Greeves

2 Mar 2009 11:25:34

Cheryl Gillan calls for end to postcode lottery for autism services

Cheryl_gillan_mpCheryl Gillan, who is Shadow Welsh Secretary and MP for Chesham and Amersham, introduced the second reading of the Autism Bill on Friday. Mrs Gillan had come top of the Private Members' ballot, and received over a hundred requests for causes to promote.

The Autism Bill aims to improve information on the number of people with autism (who number some 500,000), ensure effective transition to adult from child services, and access to support and services for people with autism. Local authorities would be held legally accountable if they fall short. The Bill has cross-party support, although ministers voted against the Second Reading.

It had been suggested that Mrs Gillan withdraw the Bill, as the Government were committed to taking action. But she commented:

"I am delighted by what the Government have put on the table—I make no bones about that. It is a tribute to the negotiating skills of the National Autistic Society. However, if the Government are to deliver their commitment, they have nothing to fear from examining the Bill clause by clause. The subject has been deserted for a long time and it is about time that the voices of those affected and their families were heard loud and clear. If the promises are as good as the paper on which they are written, there is nothing to fear from having a Committee stage, during which we can examine the Bill in detail.


There is no malign intention in pressing the Bill. After it was suggested to me that the Government’s commitments were good enough for the Bill to be withdrawn, I looked up precedents. A Labour Member withdrew a Bill recently after it had gone into Committee and another Member withdrew a measure on a much smaller matter, so there is little precedent for such behaviour. I believe that I would let people down by not trying to get the detailed discussion that having the No. 1 private Member’s Bill affords."

Continue reading "Cheryl Gillan calls for end to postcode lottery for autism services" »